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 (Manna 84: TJC at 100 – The Grace That Has Brought Us Here)
Youth: Marching to Zion
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Adapted from lectures by Steven Shek—Edinburgh, UK

Editors note: This article is based on a series of lectures given to youths at the National Youth Fellowship held in Newcastle, UK, from September 30 to October 2, 2016.

In 2017, the True Jesus Church is one hundred years old. Over the past century, the church has been marching to Zion, for Zion is where she will receive salvation (Ps 14:7). But the journey is not yet over. It is the will of God that we continue marching onward (Eph 4:1V6, 13).

The ancient three saints times a would journey to the physical Zion—the city of Jerusalem—year, because they knew that those who dwell in Gods house are blessed. For this reason, they called the house of God lovely (Ps 84:1V4). We would be similarly motivated in our onward journey if we knew what God has prepared for us in the future—entry into the kingdom of heaven. However, whether we gain entry into heaven depends on the way we live our lives, which, in turn, depends on our value system. The twenty-first-century world is a world of advanced technology and convenience, but it is also a world that assails us with values contrary to Gods word. Therefore, we have to strive to remain on the right path.  

The apostle Pauls famous cry of victory was that he had fought the good fight, finished the race, and kept the faith (2 Tim 4:7). The good athlete not only runs fast, he must also finish the race. Similarly, the good soldier not only marches with perseverance, he marches right till the end.

PIECE TOGETHER A FRAGMENTED TRUTH

The church in the time of the apostles started on the right path, since she received the complete truth from Jesus. However, after a few decades, as heresies crept in, the Holy Spirit departed from the church. Without the Spirits guidance, the truth became fragmented and the church eventually splintered into many denominations. But then the Holy Spirit descended in 1917 to once again unify and piece together the fragmented truth. 

The early workers of the revived church had the complete truth. But the future of the church depends on the systematic transmission of this complete truth from one generation to the next. The failure to do this—whether as a church or individually—will mean that the truth will again fragment.

With regard to our personal faith, imagine it as a jigsaw puzzle. When we are young, our faith may only consist of four pieces, and these are easily assembled. But as we grow and listen to the word of God, we realize there are actually more pieces to the puzzle, and this will take us much more time to piece together. To complete a jigsaw puzzle, we usually begin with the corners and edges—building the frame—before filling in the middle, all the while constantly referring to a photo of the finished puzzle. This task takes time and there is no short cut. Similarly, when we try to build our faith and knowledge of the truth, we must first put the frame in place. This frame may comprise key components of the truth such as the churchs ten articles of faith, the five essential doctrines, the Ten Commandments, and so on. We build on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, with Christ Jesus Himself as the cornerstone (Eph 2:20). Next, we fit in the other pieces—a deeper knowledge and the application of His teachings—while looking at the pattern of sound words (2 Tim 1:13). 

Like those thousand-piece jigsaw puzzles, building up our personal faith may occasionally be difficult, if not downright frustrating. At such moments, we may even doubt that the puzzle can be completed. The solution lies with God and the guidance of His Spirit. On our part, we have to persevere and complete the puzzle piece by piece, even though there may be times when we lose interest or are distracted by other pleasures (2 Tim 3:1V5).

KEEP OUR HEART LOYAL TO GOD

On their pilgrimage to Jerusalem, the ancient saints felt in their hearts that it was far better to be in the courts of God (Ps 84:10). If, on our own journey to Zion, we do not have this same heart of delight for God, then we must ask ourselves whether our heart is still loyal to God or whether it has been affected by sin.

As members of the true church, redeemed by the blood of Christ, we have been made kings and priests to God (Rev 5:9V10), with Christ as our Sovereign. How can we be kings with a heart for God? We can learn from two young kings in the Old Testament: Joash and Josiah.

Joashs Heart of Persistence

Joash became king at the tender age of seven, and set his heart on repairing the house of God (2 Chr 24:4). At the time, Gods people had turned to worshipping idols, leaving the holy temple in a ruined state. This young man resolved to bring the people back to God.

King Joash did not do this work alone; he gathered the priests and Levites, and despatched them to collect money for temple repairs and maintenance. However, the Levites were slow to act, thinking it would be too difficult a task, or even impossible. Yet the king did not give up, nor was he disheartened. Instead, he encouraged the chief priest Jehoiada and the Levites, insisting that this work had to be done, because it was the will of God. They placed a chest at the gate of the house of the Lord and, to the priests surprise, the people rejoiced and filled the chest day after day. This was how they managed to restore the temple to its original condition (2 Chr 24:13).

King Joashs loyal heart towards God and spiritual perseverance resulted in the restoration of Gods temple. Burnt offerings were once again offered to God. We should have the heart of Joash, desiring and working towards a church full of heart and spirit for God. Moreover, we need to have the same heart of perseverance in all spiritual matters, even when our minds tell us it is too difficult or downright impossible.

Josiahs Faithful Pursuit of God

King Josiah started his reign at eight years old, and he did what was right in the eyes of God—he did not deviate to the left or to the right (2 Chr 34:2). He sought God at a young age and began to purge the idols from his kingdom at the age of twenty. Later, Hilkiah the high priest found the Book of the Law and Shaphan the scribe read it before the king. When Josiah realized that God was angry at the peoples iniquities, he tore his clothes (2 Chr 34:19V21). With this enhanced understanding, King Josiah made a covenant to follow the Lord and to keep His commandments with all his heart and soul. He also made the people of Jerusalem and the tribe of Benjamin take a stand (2 Chr 34:31V32).

Just as Josiah sought after God from a young age and purged idols from his kingdom, we too must pursue Gods word and remove falsehoods from our lives. By enhancing our own understanding of how to please God, like Josiah, we will know the state of our faith and be better equipped to piece it together.

King Joash and King Josiah both implemented changes in their kingdom to please God. Josiah also took steps to ensure that he and his citizens did not become complacent (2 Chr 34:33). Do we constantly think of ways to help our brethren build rapport, and become more pleasing to God (cf. Col 1:28)?

AVOID THE BIGGEST THREAT: COMPLACENCY

The people of Israel and Judah were often complacent, believing that they would always have peace and security. But in fact, they regularly incurred Gods wrath through their actions. Even worse, they would often reject the warnings of the true prophets of God. False prophets told these people the things they wanted to hear (Jer 6:14; Ezek 13:10), which further fed their complacency.  As they were not in the truth, they could not see how the warnings of Gods prophets concerned them.

If we want to explain the truth, we must be in the truth and constantly desire to remain in it. For our hearts to be in the truth, we must first have a believing heart. During Christs ministry, the Jews rejected Him and did not believe in Him. Thus, they could neither understand His teachings nor see how these concerned them. The devil prowls around, waiting for us to demonstrate the slightest doubt in God or the tiniest sliver of scepticism towards His word. He is waiting for us to listen to the word of God and ask, So what? It is at this point that the devil will take the truth away from our heart (Mt 14:4, 9). If we find we do not care for the truth—i.e., we are not interested in deepening our knowledge of it or defending it—it may be because our hearts have already been captured by the world. In these circumstances, we become people who are in the world and of the world (cf. Jn 17:16). Blinded by the worlds glittering pleasures, we are not able to see Gods presence in our lives. 

We have heard the many testimonies of Gods amazing work when the Holy Spirit descended again to re-establish the true church. However, today, one hundred years after this establishment, it may be difficult for us to see Gods power and consistent presence in our service, as witnessed in the early days. That is why we must renew our focus on Zion.

We must believe that we are the one true church, even though we were not present when the Holy Spirit descended to re-establish His church on earth. Jesus said to His disciple Thomas, Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed (Jn 20:29), and this includes us today. We must never lose faith in the fact that, both individually and collectively as a church, we belong to God and will be blessed by Him.

GALVANIZE OUR SOUL

As we continue to march towards Zion, our heavenly goal, we will encounter difficulties that can distract us from piecing together our faith and cause us to deviate from the right path. To overcome these challenges, we must have a galvanized soul.

Galvanization has two definitions: the first is to excite or to stir up into sudden activity. We often try to stir ourselves to act, but this feeling does not last long. When hardships arise or temptations beguile, these often dampen the initial excitement; we then lose the drive to continue. If we run on adrenaline alone, we may burn out quickly, leading to unfinished tasks and feelings of failure. Clearly, such galvanization is of little help in overcoming the difficulties we face on our journey.

But there is another type of galvanization: the application of a protective layer to prevent rust and corrosion in metal. It is dipped into a hot solution to obtain this protective layer. Similarly, we were dipped into the blood of Christ during baptism. Additionally, we have to apply the truth and His teachings to our daily lives. In other words, it is our faith and the truth that will protect our hearts, minds and souls against the corrosive influences of the world. Over time, it is possible for this protective coating to be scratched, thus allowing corroding elements to reach the soul beneath. That is why it is important to be in constant contact with God, to keep the protective layer scratch-free.

To check whether our soul is still galvanized or whether our protective coating has worn away, we can ask ourselves three questions:

1)      Are our feelings, thoughts and actions holy?

2)      Are our feelings, thoughts and actions loving?

3)      Are our feelings, thoughts and actions righteous?

If we can answer yes to all three, then we still have a galvanized soul. If the answer to one or more of these is no, then we need to check if we are in constant contact with God. We need to assess if we have become complacent, and if our hearts are still loyal to God.

SEEK AND FOLLOW THE BLUEPRINT OF THE END-TIME TRUE CHURCH

All that we have faced, and will face, is part of our journey of life and faith. The generations before us were able to overcome all difficulties, and kept their faith based on the blueprint given to Gods people. Not everyone can see this blueprint. Only those who truly turn their hearts to God can see the blueprint found in the Old Testament.

God instructed the prophet Ezekiel to describe the temple to the people of Israel, so that they might be ashamed of their iniquities. And only when the people were ashamed of all they had done would Ezekiel reveal the design of the temple to them (Ezek 43:10V12). For us today, if we want to see the blueprint of the end-time true church, we need to be prepared to confess our iniquities (1 Jn 1:9). When we see our own iniquities, the shame we feel will drive us to seek forgiveness and improvement through prayers to God. And when we constantly turn to Him, He protects us from the corrosion of the world and transforms us, enhancing our spirituality.  

Spending more time with God will not only help us to understand ourselves better, but will also allow us to see the blueprint of the church clearly. The more we understand the design that God has for His church, the more we can help each other on this journey to Zion.

ZION, OUR FINAL DESTINATION

God spoke of a new creation to the prophet Isaiah:

For behold, I create new heavens and a new earth;
And the former shall not be remembered or come to mind.
But be glad and rejoice forever in what I create;
For behold, I create Jerusalem as a rejoicing,
And her people a joy.
I will rejoice in Jerusalem,
And joy in My people;
The voice of weeping shall no longer be heard in her,
Nor the voice of crying.
No more shall an infant from there live but a few days,
Nor an old man who has not fulfilled his days;
For the child shall die one hundred years old,
But the sinner being one hundred years old shall be accursed.
They shall build houses and inhabit them;
They shall plant vineyards and eat their fruit,
They shall not build and another inhabit;
They shall not plant and another eat;
For as the days of a tree, so shall be the days of My people,
And My elect shall long enjoy the work of their hands.
They shall not labour in vain,
Nor bring forth children for trouble;
For they shall be the descendants of the blessed of the LORD,
And their offspring with them.
It shall come to pass
That before they call, I will answer;
And while they are still speaking, I will hear.
The wolf and the lamb shall feed together,
The lion shall eat straw like the ox,
And dust shall be the serpents food.
They shall not hurt nor destroy in all My holy mountain,
Says the LORD. (Isa 65:17V25)

The glorious new creation described in this passage refers to the perfection of Gods mountain—the true church. In this perfect church, the members will rejoice in relying on God, and God will rejoice in His peoples care for the church. Gods people will have a new perspective on life: no longer is life short and miserable, but every moment is a welcome opportunity to serve and sacrifice to God. They will build up their faith and enjoy a life of faith, knowing their labor is not in vain. These members will serve God in truth and with a sincere heart; their children will follow and be blessed. God will be a Father to His people, knowing their needs before they even call out to Him.

May our one-hundred-year-old true church be unflagging in her march towards such perfection.

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Author: Steven Shek
Date: 12/08/2017
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